When I was reading The Case Against The Supreme Court, there were plenty of citations that I wanted to chase to their sources. Here, for instance, Erwin Chemerinsky quotes RBG:
“one-third of private sector employers have adopted specific rules prohibiting employees from discussing their wages with co-workers; only one in ten employers has adopted a pay openness policy.”
Turns out that’s a quote from Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., within which RBG was quoting someone else. Great. So we find the cite within Ledbetter:
See also Bierman & Gely, “Love, Sex and Politics? Sure. Salary? No Way”: Workplace Social Norms and the Law, 25 Berkeley J. Emp. & Lab. L. 167, 168, 171 (2004) (one-third of private sector employers have adopted specific rules prohibiting employees from discussing their wages with co-workers; only one in ten employers has adopted a pay openness policy).
We go looking for “Love, Sex and Politics? Sure. Salary? No Way”, and we find it. Within there:
One-third of United States private sector employers have reinforced this norm by adopting specific rules prohibiting employees from discussing their wages with co-workers, rules known as pay secrecy/confidentiality (“PSC”) rules.4
Footnote 4 reads:
See More Employers Ducking Pay Confidentiality Issue: HRnext.com Survey Shows Many Employers View Issue as Hot Potato, available at http://www.hrnet.com (last visited Nov. 16, 2003) [hereinafter “HRnext Survey”]; Mary Williams Walsh, The Biggest Company Secret; Workers Challenge Employer Policies on Pay Confidentiality, N.Y. Times, July 28, 2000, at Cl.
The up-to-date link for the first cited article is this one. The ultimate source of the thing that Chemerinsky cites is this:
An online survey conducted in March 2001 at hr.blr.com found that a majority (51 percent) of HR managers report their companies have no policy about pay confidentiality. Some 36 percent have policies forbidding such discussion, and 15 percent have policies that say discussing pay with co-worker is permissible.
The Times article is this one; on a quick scan, it doesn’t say anything about salary-silence policies.
Some thoughts on this process:
- Chasing even a single citation to its source is nontrivial. I was lucky here, in that all of the cited sources were created during the Internet age.
- Had one of the citations led to a book, the odds would have been quite good that the book would not be available online. Amazon’s Search-Inside-the-Book feature is useful here. Google Books is sometimes useful. But both those sources often hide pages from you.
- Kindles should allow some kind of privileged access to Search-Inside-the-Book it’s a citation from inside a Kindle book. I realize there are a million difficulties here. But it’s a thought.
- When I finally did track down the ultimate source, it was not a good source: “An online survey concludes…” is not how you begin a persuasive sentence. If the ultimate sources of citations were always really easy to obtain — if, indeed, you could find the ultimate source just by hovering over the text you want to check — I wager that we’d get a lot fewer tenuous claims.
- We could crowdsource this, if all else fails. I’d be glad to contribute this citation chain back into some database, à la the Kindle’s existing Public Notes feature. It wouldn’t work to submit footnote chains through the Kindle itself (interacting with the device is slow and aggravating for anything other than flipping pages), but it could be done through the iPad or a desktop browser.